Bruschetta Times (Two) – Bruschette alle Zucchine & Bruschetta con Crema di Zucca e Noci

I am a curious person by nature and love to experiment and experience new things in the world of food. However, I have noticed that in ethnic restaurants, I easily tend to order the same dish on each visit: red or green curry in the case of Thai food, kung-po chicken in Chinese restaurants, palak paneer in Indian places etc. The same pattern used to dominate my visits to Italian restaurants in Finland: bruschette with tomato and mozzarella or insalata di bufala for a starter and a seafood pasta for a main course.

This may not only be a question of my habits but also of the restaurants in Helsinki focusing their offer on the most internationally popular dishes. When visiting Italy on the other hand, I enjoy trying out as many new dishes as possible. And obviously also in Cucina Fintastica (more or less successfully).

I have already earlier broadened my understanding of potential bruschetta toppings with Giorgione’s help. Today I am sharing two other fabulous options: one with zucchini and another with pumpkin cream and cream cheese. The neat trick about the former recipe is that the bread slices are dipped in a mixture of eggs and cream before placing them in the oven. The slices are also baked there with the zucchini topping for a longer period than usual. Yet the outcome is quite fresh as after the oven, the bruschette are completed with herbs and chilli.

Zucchini Bruschette

8 slices of white bread (casereccio or other)

3 zucchinis (depending on their size 1-2 larger ones may suffice too)

3 eggs

2 dl double cream

fresh mint

fresh parsley

½ shallot

butter

1 red chilli pepper

salt

Clean the zucchinis and cut them into round slices about 0.5 cm thick. Clean a bunch of parsley and some mint leaves and chop them together with the shallot. Sprinkle the zucchini slices with the herb – shallot mixture.

Break the eggs into a bowl. Add the cream and a pinch of salt and mix well with a wooden fork.

Grease an oven dish with butter (I used an oven tray and a parchment paper instead). Dip the bread slices in the egg – cream mixture, and place them in the oven dish. Cover the bread slices with the zucchini slices.

Bake the bruschette in the oven at 200 C for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, clean the red chilli pepper and eliminate its seeds. Chop it with 20 leaves of parsley and 5-6 of mint. Switch the oven onto its grill mode and let the bruschette bake further for a few minutes. Remove them from the oven and sprinkle them with the chopped herbs and chilli. Let the bruschette cool down slightly and serve.

Bruschette with Pumpkin Cream and Walnuts

Serves 4

4 slices of white bread (casereccio or other)

200 g pumpkin

1 shallot

4 walnuts

3 tbsp olive oil

100 g cream cheese

salt

pepper

Peel the pumpkin, remove its seeds and cut it into cubes. Peel and chop the shallot.

In a pan, heat the olive oil with the chopped shallot and let them (gently) brown. Add the pumpkin cubes. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan with a lid, and cook for about 20 minutes (until the pumpkin is soft). Remove from the heat and move into a blender with 1 tablespoon of the cream cheese. Blend to obtain a nice pumpkin cream and let it cool down.

Divide the walnut kernels into ~4 pieces each. Toast the bread slices (in an oven on its grill mode). Prepare the bruschette by first adding the pumpkin cream on top of the grilled bread and then some walnut pieces and a few teaspoons of the cream cheese (for each bread slice).

The Taste of Pastes – Bruschette alla Umbra

If I had to describe this June in one word, it would probably be “changes”. Naturalmente as usual, it is the month of the season changing from spring to summer. This year it was also a month of several changes in my life, and – due to those – additionally the first month with no posts on Cucina Fintastica.

Leaving poor blog post stats aside, I am usually quite pro-change. Even if new phases and elements in life may bring some uncertainty, they also always include something new, positive and exciting!

Obviously there are also some things that remain solid in this world. Such as my love of Italian food and faith in Giorgione’s recipes. I think I may need to order some new Italian cook books to my kitchen library soon including Giorgione’s  latest (“Giorgioni – Le origini“) but in the meantime I’m sharing one more recipe from Giorgione’s fab “Orto e cucina“. There are in fact three different Umbrian style bruschette out of which I have successfully tried two: one with an aubergine topping and another one with green peppers. Both are delicious and superbly simple – and hence dishes for which my appreciation will certainly never change!

Umbrian Style Bruschette

White (country-style) bread of your choice

For the green pepper paste:

½ onion

2 green peppers

red chilli pepper

marjoram

parsley

butter

olive oil

For the aubergine paste:

1 aubergine

1 garlic clove

red chilli pepper

mint

marjoram

butter

olive oil

Heat some olive oil in a pan and add the chopped onion, a dash of red chilli, and a leaf of marjoram (or more if your fresh marjoram are a bit blander than in Giorgione’s region – such as here in Helsinki). Add the green peppers (sliced into small pieces) and some salt and fry lightly. Once cooked (the green peppers should be soft enough for blending), move them into a blender with a knob of butter and a bunch of parsley. Mix into a soft paste.

Heat some olive oil in a pan and quickly fry the aubergines (sliced into cubes) in it. Drain the aubergines. In another pan, heat some olive and gently fry the garlic clove, some red chilli, mint and marjoram. Add the aubergines. Move the mixture into a blender and mix into a soft paste with a knob of butter.

Cut the bread into nice slices and gently grill the slices. Top each slice with the paste of your choice.

Making Same Difference – Crostini Caldi con Funghi & Bruschette al Pomodoro e Mozzarella

Sometimes one can feel quite relaxed about Italian cooking even as a Finn. Even if you dare to try some classics as old as Rome, there are usually at least as many opinions on the proper way of making them as there are capers in my kitchen cabinets. Hence you can usually be sure that there is at least some remote Italian village with a version of the dish similar to yours (with the exception of my somewhat unusual interpretation of torta della nonna, that is).

I am a long term fan of both bruschette and crostini but it is quite unclear to me what the difference between those two really is. The English version of Wikipedia sheds very little light on the question: it defines crostini as toasted bread with toppings and bruschette as grilled bread with toppings. Toasted, roasted, grilled – all same to me when you have one oven in a city apartment to make both dishes. Fortunately with my ever improving Italian skills I was equipped to do some further Sherlock work on this – even if Benedict C wouldn’t drop by (Benedict you are still quite welcome to though!).

As usual, Italians are not exactly in unison about this. One suggests that for crostini you typically use cheese that you melt on top of the bread whilst toasting it. Another says that the only acceptable topping on a bruschetta are tomatoes, otherwise it is a crostino. What most people seem to agree on is that crostini should be crispier whereas a bruschetta has a crunchy crust but should remain soft inside. Crostini are also typically smaller served as antipasti while bruschette can also be larger and serve as a light meal.

Well, I’m not sure if I was really any wiser after this little Googtective session though, and infatti, chose these two recipes based on what I readily had in my fridge: chanterelles and mozzarella. For the mushrooms, I found this crostini recipe. I quite enjoyed the combination of a more strongly flavoured cheese with my chanterelles. For the mozzarella, I went for the usual – albeit very nice– version of bruschetta with tomatoes and basil.

All in all, while bruschette and crostini still mean about the same thing for me, I did learn one thing: if you test both bruschette and crostini at the same time, you will end up with a very full stomach!

Warm Crostini with Mushrooms

4-5 slices of white bread

1-2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped

olive oil

3-4 dl mushrooms (e.g. chanterelles), cleaned and sliced

~50 g Gruyere cheese (or another strong cheese – I used strong English cheddar), grated

salt, pepper, red chilli (fresh or flakes)

fresh parsley, chopped

Heat the oil in a pan and gently fry the garlic cloves for a few minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook them. When ready, season to your taste with salt, pepper and red chilli (if you like). Preheat your oven to ~200 C (use the “grill mode” if available). Place the bread slices on an oven tray and sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Bake in the oven for ~5 minutes until the bread is crusty and cheese nicely melted. Add the mushroom topping and serve warm.

 

Bruschette with Tomatoes and Mozzarella

Serves 2

4 slices of (white) bread

3 ripe tomatoes, deseeded and sliced into cubes

1/2 package of fresh mozzarella, sliced into cubes

1 garlic clove, crushed and chopped

olive oil

fresh basil, chopped

salt, pepper

parmesan, sliced into cubes or grated into rough flakes

In a bowl, mix the garlic, tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. Season with some olive oil and salt. Toast the bread in an oven at ~200 C (or grill it) for a few minutes. Add the topping on the bread slices and complete with the parmesan and pepper. Serve immediately.